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Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The One With Anna Ryder-Richardson

The thing with seeing a celebrity is that no matter how grounded you may think you are, you cannot help but get a little googly eyed and star struck when you encounter first hand one of these people which is why I am writing this.
Anna Ryder-Richardson moved to Pembrokeshire a couple of years ago and bought Manor House wildlife park, which at the time had been left to ruin and had closed down, with the animals locked in there. Now for anyone knows Pembrokeshire or any small town come to that will realise the magnitude of this event. I knew very little of it at the time as our attentions were focussed elsewhere, but had promised the kids a visit when we went back.

Now to me, people are people, no matter who they are, I would offer them a seat next to me and would buy their kids ice creams along with my kids when playing together. But how does a celebrity see other people and themselves come to that? How would they see the actions of us mere mortals, knowing who they are and knowing that we know who they are? Knowing that when you meet a person they already know more about you than you do about them? To be honest it must be hard, which is why it was an even braver decision for Anna Ryder-Richardson to buy and then re-open this park.

My first Anna encounter was at Tenby harbour, where she stood right behind Jason looking for a place to sit; this was the moment I knew I would get stupidly star struck if I spoke to her! I didn’t speak to her on this occasion, I felt kind of bad that she was out with her family, enjoying an evening, yet obviously being asked for pictures etc. It must be a difficult decision when you are famous to go out; you’d have to be in the right mood and frame of mind and prepared for the public. I have to say though, she was stood a few feet from us that evening and she dealt with people wonderfully, smiled and was generous with her time to every person who asked for a picture or who approached her.

My second ‘Anna encounter’ was at Manor House. I saw her go by in the morning. Celebrities always seem to look animated compared to their surroundings, maybe it is because we notice them more that the lady with the buggy, or the dad with his two kids in tow. It always seems strange that they carry on the same as us, not sure why it seems strange it just does! So we had a fabulous day at Manor House, we met some friends of ours there, kids had loads of fun, you can really tell that it is run by a mother – the picnic area is covered with toys, space hopper and bikes and wicker tepees and there is a park or play area around every corner its great! At the end of the day we popped into the gift shop for our mandatory souvenirs. When we came out Grace wanted to play on a wooden rocking horse type thing??!?! So we sat there whilst she played and out came Anna Ryder-Richardson. Jason pointed out that this was the lady who owned the zoo at which point joey marches up and taps her ‘excuse me’ ‘Yes?’ ‘I really like your zoo!’ to which Anna replies ‘Awww and I really like you!’ – She looked over and smiled saying how cute, we got into a brief mother type conversation about swapping children etc. Jason, knowing I was far too embarrassed asked her if she wouldn’t mind having a picture taken with me, she of course obliged without question. Grace went into full blown tantrum mode, which made her worry she had done something, which I suppose if you didn’t know Grace you would wonder if you’d done something to cause such an outburst, I gently reassured her that it wasn’t her and we went on our way!

Anna Ryder-Richardson was refreshingly normal to meet, and made me realise that actually celebrities are not a completely different species; she for example is another mother, working hard to raise her kids and run a business. She has done a fabulous job, the park was lovely, a lot of thought and hard work went in it and I hope it continues to grow. However she is still a celebrity and I had my picture taken with her, and yes I did feel a little googly eyed and star struck for a moment there, with all the people she meets every day it is unlikely she will remember us, but we will! And I thank her for taking the time, and adding to an already very lovely day!

The One That Came Back By Popular Demand!

So there was me thinking that I obliviously typed away at this blog for the basis of a future record, yet unbeknown to me, other people actually read it! Not only that they enjoy it too! So whilst I have been preoccupied for the last few months, believing it didn’t matter too much that hadn’t updated this, it in fact did matter to some people. So here I am, condensing the last few months into one little, not so neat, package!
Once we had recovered from our coming of age into the next decades of our lives, it was time to move on, and get on with life! It was strange having such a celebrations with restrictions, such as no alcohol, no big liberating party and even more so as this is our first time away. Attention was to focus on our trip back to the UK in the summer where we could spend three whole months indulging in such debaucheries!

Most things in life ticked along as normal, Jason continued with his job, still enjoying it, Joey continued to excel in school and Grace and me slowly learnt that you can have too much of a good thing, staying at home and playing with mum isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, tempers flared, personalities clashed, makes me really look forward to the teenage years in our house!!!!!? In time I began to count down the days until we were going back to the UK, arduously crossing off days on the calendar, planning our trip in every detail (which by the way didn’t exactly go to plan, but more about that later!)

However, during this time, we did mark some achievements, I managed to lose weight, which I then successfully put straight back on, we embarked a mission to get Jason’s driving license, with success after 4 very long days! Which led us into our battle around the Saudi banking system in order to buy a car, which after 4 even longer weeks we finally had! Most of the above being a struggle with the language barrier which Jason has gallantly fought and is well on his way to winning!

So back to the new car! Well what can I say? Big and lush!!! An 8 seater, GMC Acadia, brand new, straight from the showroom. This was a momentous occasion for us. Never before have we had anything so big, shiny and new! Maybe some think we should be sensible and buy a second hand car and save our money. But after much deliberation we realised that actually it would be a false economy. We would spend approx 4000 GBP on a 10 year old car, which would have a million miles on the clock and has no doubt been hammered by the heat and the sand. For 20,000 GBP we could have a car with a warranty, that’s new, we know exactly what it has done and can do. A far safer and in the long term more economical choice for us!

Well, all this set my little mind ticking! This car is so comfy and nice; why not drive it as much as we can, as in back to the UK for summer? So at first everyone laughed and thought we were mad. But I researched every detail. The countries, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Austria, Germany then France. It was doable. I set about my little folder, all sectioned in perfect order, of hotels and campsites, places of interest, Embassy numbers and addresses for each country, currency, traffic rules and regulations, Visas – it was a project to be proud of! Now just one thing, taking the car out of the country. Most things are a battle over here if they are unusual. And this certainly was unusual. We were told by most people at the bank that we could take the car to Europe no problem. When it actually came to the fact it was a different ball game. Only neighbouring Arab countries, then only to Bahrain. We need the paper work in order to get a Carnet. We were backed into a corner of making a decision quick. We could fight it and hope to be able to take the car or give in and guarantee our flights. We had to take the flights as didn’t want to risk wasting any of our summer. Simple you would think – mmmmmm – not so! Whilst trying to pay for our flights Saudi Airlines kindly cancelled me and the kids off the booking, refusing to rectify it making us re book – for an extra 2000 GBP!!!!!!! I don’t think so, so after many days of angry emails, to which there was no reply, I had to rebook me and the kids to leave before Jason – 2 weeks before.

By this point culture shock was really getting me down and just wanted to see my family and friends again, on top of that the thought of flying half way across the world with the kids on my own was slightly disconcerting and even more that we would be apart as a family for almost two weeks! This will never happen again – next year we will be doing our Europe trip and driving back, after all, I made a folder and everything!

So the flight…………………..

Jason drove us to Abha airport which was far nicer than relying on the hospital transport which is inevitably always running late and being on my own I would not have been given any help! So all was good we got to the airport by 7pm, Jason got us checked in and linked our flights etc. and then we sat and had a drink together. Knowing that I couldn’t show too much physical affection to him made me want to snog his face off more than ever! But we embraced in a dignified peck on the cheek, whilst having a family hug, no one can complain at that surely! I had hoped and prayed that joey was still that little bit too young to get upset about being taken away from daddy, oh how wrong I was!!! The heartbroken little boy understood enough to be devastated about leaving daddy but not quite old enough to get the reason as to why this was the only way. Jason tried in vain to hold back the tears, to not much avail I must add! I got to the point where I couldn’t watch and Grace carried on in her own little world in true Grace Style!

The first flight was great kids were fabulous, we got to Jeddah and got ourselves sorted in the airport café, where I am pleases to say is one place people can still smoke! We had some food from the café and a mooch around the shops and the kids were fabulous. Our plane boarded about 1am and the kids were asleep before we even taxied round!! I thought marvellous, I can have my little meal and watch a movie and still have time for a little sleep before we land! How wrong can one mommy be! Movies weren’t available until over an hour into the journey, food seemed to take almost as long, and then just as I got to sleep all hell broke loose!!! Grace woke making sure that she wasn’t the only one, screaming and crying the plane down in the most indiscreet way, to the point I had to lock us both in the toilet just to give everyone else the chance of peace and to give her the stern telling off that was required – it was the airplane equivalent of the shop doorway! Once I had her calmed, I drifted off again, for joey to wake! His requests were far simpler, or so I thought, he wanted his meal, so off I went to get it. Only to be told that there were no child meals left. Now at 5am and 35 thousand feet the final straw for an overtired and emotionally battered 5 year old is quite understandably his lack of child meal. OMG, he cried, but a truly devastating cry that not even mommy could sooth. I then got told off by the steward for not ordering the meal and that it was my fault (let the record state I did in fact order the meal!) To which my final response after 20 mins of emotional battering was ‘Do NOT under any circumstances speak to me for the rest of the journey. You obviously have no idea how to speak to mothers because if you did you would realise we are the last people you’d would want to piss off at 35,000 feet!’ Not surprisingly the manager popped over to say hi!!! By this time I was seriously not amused and crying myself and counting the seconds for the flight to end!!

Finally the flight did end!

Through customs, through the luggage lounge and into arrivals, where the kids dived towards granddad and aunty Val and I welled up with even more tears happy to be back on solid ground!

We paid our ticket, packed the car and went to leave Heathrow, only to be told that if we wanted to leave we had to pay another 2.50 GBP!!!! We had taken too long to get out – are you serious????!??!?!?!? I then experienced culture shock, (which is a recognised medical complaint you know!). But this time in my own country, surely that’s a first.

2 hours later up the motorway and we were back at Dad and Val’s – where I quickly relaxed and got some sleep, probably something to do with the bacon sandwich and half a bottle of wine I had at 9.30 am that morning………………………..